Dead Of Winter

Grenache Jan 23, 2013. Click for larger image.Yesterday marked the first day since early January that we have had any rain here in Sonoma Valley. So far, with less than an inch of accumulated precipitation, this month is the driest January at our vineyard since I started keeping records in 1998. Only 2007 even comes close.

As in 2007, we also have had an extended period of dry, cold weather. In 2007 the stretch was about a week long. This year we had almost 20 days of freezing nighttime temperatures—in the high 20s to the low 30s. I can’t recall such a long period of cold weather in 27 years spent here (which is one of the reasons I started keeping this blog—to help my recall). So this is probably the coldest January yet at our vineyard as well.

The cold temperatures mean nothing is happening with the vines. It will be at least a month before the sap rises. The crew pruned two rows of Syrah on Tuesday before the rain started. Unless we get an extended heat spell—and there is nothing in the long term pattern to suggest we will—we’ll have plenty of time to finish pruning before the vines wake up.

The cold and lack of rain have stunted the growth of the cover crop we drilled into the soil of the young blocks after harvest. It remains to be seen if the cover will grow enough to set seed before we have to mow to get into the rows to work this year. Ah, farming.

The cold also means the malolactic ferments that weren’t complete have stalled. We have a few stalled lots with relatively high pH that keep me up at night. I’m struggling with the decision to add a little SO2 to some of them to try to avoid spoilage, but always worry that the ML could be inhibited further as well. Ah, winemaking.

Chez Kelly have been dealing with a persistent respiratory bug since before Christmas. It’s sounded like a tuberculosis ward around here, and since everyone was sick we did very little for the holidays: it was restful, but not much of a vacation.

Prostrated exhaustion from illness is only part of the reason I have not posted here since mid-November. I’ve been experiencing social media fatigue (Facebook! Twitter! Tumblr! Instagram! Interest forums! Yelp! Trip Advisor! even SMS – all demanding immediate and constant attention) so I took a break.

Plus I just haven’t felt much like writing. I had nearly finished a snappy little rebuttal to Mark Bittman’s latest misleading screed on pesticides in agriculture when the tragedy in Newtown, CT kicked me in the gut (we have two elementary-school aged children—I suppose that’s why my reaction to the slaughter of those little kids is wrenchingly visceral to this day). So Mark got a pass. Besides, I already posted a similar rebuttal to the notion that “pesticide” use is increasing back in 2011.

I never got to my customary post-harvest review, as harvest ended so late in 2012. I’ve got a post nearly done on the tension created when wines are ideologically labeled that I may complete. And I just checked my editor to find that I have a dozen other posts in draft (schnikes!) that I need to finish or round-file.

Anyway, I’m starting to feel that the fires have been banked long enough. My urge to write is tied to my overall productivity, and it is about time for me to get my act together and rise from the dead of winter.

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